When you’re pulling overnighters at the office in an urgent scramble to release an MVP in time, it’s all too easy to forget the very reasons why you founded the startup in the first place. Or what kind of social, cultural and technological impact that you want your business to have.
Benjamin Yee, a serial entrepreneur under 30, shares some core values shaped by three startups that he founded since leaving school. Some may dismiss them as feel-good speak coming out of a retreat in California, but these values will ring true when you’re staring into the abyss at your startup, or when you’re trying to recruit like-minded people to join your cause.
Ben’s most recent startup is a software solution called EMERGE App. It offers order, purchase and inventory management for small and medium-sized businesses around the world. Ultimately, he wants business owners to spend less time worrying over inventory issues and, instead, focus on the things that matter in their lives.
I want my employees to feel happy working for me. When they get out of bed in the morning, they must feel motivated to tackle another day of achieving goals and fixing issues. If they start to resent coming to work or show a negative attitude, then it becomes a problem for me and my business.
EMERGE App is a cloud solution that is available via subscription. So it’s important that I continue to delight my customers and keep them happy. They can cancel their subscription anytime and switch to another product. We need to exceed customer expectations with every interaction. To achieve that we need to be happy inside first.
I create happiness by asking each new candidate one question: What Makes You Happy? For some it is money. For others, it is a goal such as putting a downpayment on a new house. For another, it was keeping his job despite migrating to another country. I’m able to keep my staff happy by nudging them closer to their dreams.
My workforce is well distributed among several countries. In one physical office, I have teams of developers, designers and testers working on the next release of EMERGE App. In another department, staff work remotely from different cities on marketing, branding and public relations. Yet another works on revenue and user growth in another country.
All this means a mix of office hours, flexi hours and remote workers. Plus I’m the digital nomad that oversees everything as I’m travelling 3 weeks out of every month. We thus measure performance by output and not corporate facetime. We trust that you do your best work at the times that suit you. If you need to urgently run an errand in the morning, then so be it. We also have an unlimited vacation policy that, thankfully, no one has abused yet.
Since EMERGE App is wholly dependent on customer subscriptions, we answer to the customer alone. Thus the whole business is aligned with addressing customer pain points and supporting them in using our software to solve their inventory problems. Customer compliments really make everyone’s day, while less than stellar comments means that we need to look hard at ourselves, stay humble and then fix the issue.
At the end of the day, we all need to enjoy what we do best and have some fun while at it. Everyone is a fair target for jokes and memes, myself included. We draw the line at making fun of customers of course. But friendly and humorous banter with customers is fine if that’s the mood of the chat or email. It definitely helps to connect with them.
So ask yourself today: what are your core values at your startup?